World War I Collections at the Amistad Research Center

This past week marked the anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo, which led to the outbreak of the first World War. The Amistad Research Center houses a small, but interesting, set of collections that document the war and its participants. Two collections are processed and have online finding aids, while another is slated for full processing as part of our current K-12 outreach project funded by the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation.

The Seleste L.Chandler papers document Chandler’s service as an African American medic serving in France during World War I. The collection includes Chandler’s diary, photographs, correspondence, and an obituary notice. The highlight of the collection is a diary kept by Chandler from approximately June 1917, when he entered Jenner Medical College in Chicago, Illinois, to February 1919, when he returned to the United States from his tour of duty. Chandler briefly describes his training at Jenner and his assignment to Company A of the 350th New York Battalion and the medical detachment of that battalion. The battalion traveled from Camp Grant near Rockford, Illinois, to Camp Upton on Long Island, New York, before leaving the United States on June 10, 1918 and arriving in Brest, France, on June 19. During his time in France, Chandler described his training, as well as battles, providing first aid in the midst of warfare, the capture of German soldiers, and being gassed by the Germans. The diary also lists the sectors, cities, towns, and villages visited by Chandler; personnel in the medical detachment of the 350th New York Battalion; equipment lists; and addresses of individuals in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Chicago.

Other items include three postcards and a letter (1918-1919) from Chandler to his family while overseas and upon his return to Camp Upton. Two photographs – one of the medical detachment of the 350th New York Battalion and one of Seleste Chandler’s brother, Charles, in Chicago – as well as an obituary notice for Chandler are present.

The Morris Reynaud oral history interview chronicles Reynaud’s participation in the Bonus Expeditionary Force, more commonly known as the Bonus March on Washington or Bonus Army of 1932. The collection includes an audio recording of Reynaud’s 1978 interview with Glenda B. Stevens, a typescript transcription of the interview, and a 1979 newspaper article on Reynaud’s involvement in the Bonus March.

Reynaud briefly describes his upbringing, service in World War I, and work on railroads and in sawmills across southern Louisiana both before and after the war. The majority of the interview involves Reynaud recounting his experiences in the 1932 Bonus March on Washington, D. C., where he was one of over 40,000 World War I veterans who attempted to pressure Congress into immediate payment of a wartime-service bonus initially promised in 1945.

The Harry Francis Vincent Edward papers, which will be processed in the coming year, document the life and career of Edwards as a humanitarian, Olympic athlete, businessman, civil servant, and relief worker. Born in Germany in 1898 to a German mother and West Indian father, Edward was raised in Germany, but spent part of his youth as a British prisoner of war in the Ruhleban internment camp during World War I, which is detailed in the collection through correspondence, ration cards, programs for theatrical performances by detainees, and photographs.

Posted by Christopher Harter


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